Charles Bonney was born in McCamey, Texas (Upton County) in 1938, but soon after his family moved to Ranger and he grew up there. He graduated from Ranger High School in 1957; then attended Ranger Junior College, graduating in 1959. Charles says, “Thereafter, I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1961 with a BA degree. I then graduated from the UT School of Law in 1964 and was admitted to the State Bar of Texas in the same year. I was selected to serve as briefing attorney for Judge W.A. Morrison, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin. In October 1964, I married Betty Menn and in 1965 we departed Austin for Houston where I became an Assistant DA for Harris County, and served there until taking a leave of absence in 1967 to volunteer for Army active duty. While in Houston, I served as a briefing attorney and prosecutor in misdemeanor and felony level courts. During that period I was indeed fortunate to be selected to appear in the 1966 edition of Outstanding Young Men Of America.

In October 1967, after volunteering for service in the United States Army and attending training, I was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, Military Police Corps (Charles inserted here: on a humorous note, I had rejected the offer of a commission as a Captain in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, as that carried a four year active duty commitment while the other commitment was for two years. At the time, I had no intention of serving longer than the two year commitment and fully intended to return to Houston and resume legal practice.)”

Lieutenant Bonney was promptly ordered to Vietnam and arrived “in country” in September 1968. He resumes his narrative, “I was assigned to the 9th MP Company, 9th Infantry Division in the Mekong Delta. I served as a Platoon Leader working out of Tan An Base, with Mobile Riverine assets based out of Ben Tre, and Dong Tam, and later as Executive Officer of the Company in Dong Tam. It was in this latter position that I sustained minor mortar fragmentation wounds during one of the frequent heavy mortar attacks on the Dong Tam Installation. That particular night in February 1969 we sustained concentrated 122 mm mortar direct hits in our company area, causing a number of deaths and woundings. We worked on them to the best of our abilities and commenced evacuating them to the 3rd Surgical Hospital located nearby. The Provost Marshal, Lt. Col. Phil Ash, drove me to the medical facility where my wounds were cleaned and bandaged by the Medics. I then went to the adjacent graves registration section to identify our KIA’s from that terrible episode. Fortunately during that process, I jotted the names of our dead and wounded on the back of my medical record. That became an important act for me, as I have had a reduced copy of that record and those names with me since those days. I carry them with me today and, God willing, they will be with me when I finish my tour here on earth. There were others that we lost, but these particular young soldiers had become an indelible part of my life. For many years, I wondered why I had lived and all of those fine young men had died. I finally realized that God had the plan and, until he decides that it is my time to cross the river, I just have to soldier on.”

In November 1969, Charles returned from overseas service, reassigned to Fort Bliss, Texas and was further assigned to the Military Police Company responsible for the Fort Bliss Confinement Facility. He says, “I was a Captain by that time and, to my shock, found that I had fallen in love with the Army. My wife was agreeable and thus it was decided that I would pursue a career in the Army. I branch transferred to the Judge Advocate General’s Corps and was selected a Regular Army Officer.”

For the next 23 years, Charles Bonney held a succession of positions of increasing responsibility, both overseas and in the United States, all leading up to his retirement on November 1, 1992 as Colonel, Regular Army, Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Among those assignments were: service in Germany and Italy (1970-1973); two tours in the Pentagon (mid-70’s and early 80’s) both in the Administrative Law Division of the Judge Advocate General’s Office, Headquarters, Department of Army; Division Staff Judge Advocate’s Office positions at Fort Hood, Texas (1978-1982) and at Fort Lewis, Washington (1985-1987); Command Staff Judge Advocate positions for Southern Command in Panama (1987-1989), and the Army Air Defense Center at Fort Bliss, Texas (1989-1991), and as Chief, Desert Storm Assessment Team, United States Army Legal Services Agency, Falls Church Virginia (1991-1992).

During an assignment at Fort Bliss, his wife Betty, passed away ending their twenty-six year marriage. He and his wife, Janet, married at Fort Myer, Virginia in 1992. Charles says, “After retirement, Janet and I came home to my beloved Texas. We decided to make our home in the Hill Country west of Austin and so, set about designing and building it. The home was completed in 1994 and not long after that I became a Charter Member of the Austin Area Purple Heart Chapter as a Life Member.

I also commenced service with the State of Texas once again and embarked on another career in public service. I served with several state agencies and consider the highlights to have been: assisting the Texas Department of Public Safety to implement the new Texas Concealed Handgun Program; serving as Board Administrator for the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles; and, as Director of Enforcement, first for the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners and subsequently, for the Texas Commission on Human Rights. In 2002, I retired from state service and finally had the opportunity to concentrate on the full time job of keeping our country home in shape and watching over the deer and birds that choose to live on and over our land. As I reflect on these past years, I am humbled by the many blessings that have come my way. It has been my privilege to lead and serve soldiers in the tradition of duty, honor, and country, and to have been blessed with the enduring love of my family and the two wonderful partners in my life, Betty and Janet. All of these have sustained me in the bad and good times and I am thankful for these blessings….and I continue to soldier on.”

This month, MOPH Chapter 1919 and PATRIOT BULLETIN proudly salutes Charter Member, Patriot Charles E. Bonney.